Tapestry Recovered

February 9th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

February 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the great Tapestry album by Carole King, prompting the repost of this piece from 2012. It is one of the defining LPs of the early 1970s, and for me one of the go-to albums, perhaps the go-to album, if I do not know what else to play.

By the time Carole King released Tapestry she already was a veteran in the music business, having been a teenage songwriter for Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway (and the subject of Neil Sedaka’s hit Oh Carol; she responded with an answer record titled Oh Neil). She was 18 when she had her first #1 as a songwriter, with The Shirelles’ version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in 1961. In the ten years between that and the release of Tapestry she had a prolific songwriting career, but as a recording artist she had only a minor hit with It Might As Well Rain Till September. Her uneven 1970 debut album, Writer, was a commercial disappointment; it has many bright spots, but cannot nearly compare with the sublime perfection of Tapestry.

So when Tapestry became a critical triumph and a mammoth hit after its release in February 1971, topping the US album charts for 15 weeks, it was something of a surprise.


Jim McCrary in 1978

The cover photo was taken by Jim McCrary (who died in 2012) in the living room of her house at 8815 Appian Way in Laurel Canyon (McCrary’s website says it was at Wonderland Avenue; he also took the photo of the cover for Music, the location of which he identified as being on Appian Way). At first sight it is an unremarkable shot. A woman in her late 20s sits on a windowsill. The photo is in soft focus. And yet, the image is compelling. Viewing it feels like an intrusion into an intimate moment, a woman feeling at peace in her domain. Her bare feet suggest that we are not really invited into this domestic scene; if we came knocking at her door, she might put on footwear and her serene body language might change. And the cat would scram and hide.

The feline, who went by the name of Telemachus, was not there by accident, as it would appear. It may spoil the enjoyment of the cover a little to know that the tabby was a spontaneously employed prop. McCrary later recalled seeing Telemachus sleeping on his pillow across the room. Recalling a Kodak survey which revealed that after children, cats were the most popular photo subject, he asked King whether he could use the cat in a photo. “I saw a cat, and I wanted to get something good,” he remembered. Having ascertained that the cat was tame, he carried Telemachus on his pillow to the window ledge. He managed to take three photos before the cat, no doubt annoyed at having been awoken, had enough and made tracks. But McCrary had the perfect shot: the barefoot Carole with sunlight filtering upon her, holding a tapestry that she was busy creating, and her cat sitting in front of her, as if guarding the singer.

A remastered version of Tapestry was re-released in 2008 with a bonus CD featuring all but one of the tracks of the album in live versions, recorded between 1973 and 1976. It is highly recommended. The back-cover of it (pictured above) features another photo from the McCrary session.Here’s a mix of cover versions of the songs of Tapestry, with an appearance by Carole King from that bonus CD, in their original tracklisting order. Given my bias for soul covers, many of them are of that genre. Most were recorded soon after the release of Tapestry. One of the exceptions is the cover of Way Over Yonder by David Roe, a New Orleans street musician. Fans of The Originals will be interested in Kate Taylor’s version of Home Again, which was released shortly before Tapestry came out. Finally, the vocals on the Quincy Jones version of Smackwater Jack are by, unusually, Quincy himself.

1. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move (live) (1973)
2. Marlena Shaw – So Far Away (1972)
3. Mike James Kirkland – It’s Too Late (1972)
4. Kate Taylor – Home Again (1971)
5. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)
6. David Roe – Way Over Yonder (2004)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Got A Friend (1972)
8. Faith Hill – Where You Lead (1995)
9. Zulema – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (1972)
10. Quincy Jones – Smackwater Jack (1971)
11. Jackie & Roy – Tapestry (1972)
12. Laura Nyro & Labelle – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Live) (1971)
BONUS: The Isley Brothers – It’s Too Late (1972)


More Recovered albums:
Blue (Joni Mitchell)
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Darkness On The Edge Of Town (Springsteen)
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (Bowie)
Every Beatles album

More Cover Mixes
Previous great album covers
More CD-R Mixes

  1. m.a.
    June 21st, 2012 at 09:17 | #1

    CK’s (solo) debut album is titled ‘Writer’. ‘Music’ is the follow-up to ‘Tapestry’.

  2. RG
    June 21st, 2012 at 09:19 | #2

    Wonderful write-up for a perennial favourite. The Crusaders’ take on So Far Away is also recommended.

  3. halfhearteddude
    June 21st, 2012 at 11:13 | #3

    Quite right, m.a. Generic one-word album titles are confusing… I’ll edit the text accordingly; thanks for the correction.

    R.G.: I considered that version, a real favourite. there is a live recording (not the one from Japan but the one on the red sampler) in which Felder holds a ridiculously long note; when the band resumes it’s almost orgasmic.

  4. ian
    June 21st, 2012 at 14:12 | #4

    “Tapestry Revisited – A tribute To Carole King” is a nice set. [lava records 92604-2]

    Includes the classic track list by ……
    Rod Stewart
    Amy Grant
    Curtis Stigers
    Richard Marx
    Blessed Union Of Souls
    Bebe & Cece Winans / w Aretha
    Faith Hill
    Bee Gees
    Manhattan Transfer
    Celine Dion

  5. June 21st, 2012 at 20:22 | #5

    “Tapestry” is forever a major part of the soundtrack of my freshman year of college. Whenever I went to visit one young woman at her dorm and we walked down the hall to her room, it seemed like the sounds of “It’s Too Late” or “Way Over Yonder” or another track were coming from behind every door in the hall. Great record, great cover, great memories. Nice post.

  6. Dane
    June 22nd, 2012 at 01:37 | #6

    Thanks for this; I just bought Tapestry on vinyl and have been listening to it frequently. Can’t wait to dig into these covers.

  7. Lisa
    June 22nd, 2012 at 02:15 | #7

    I have to share this, and hope no one is offended … my “favorite” cover, though it was not recorded to the best of my knowledge, would be the organist’s versions of “I Feel the Earth Move” and “Smackwater Jack” … at my mom’s funeral.

    Okay, backstory … my mother, who died way too young and way too unneccesarily (if there is such a thing as dying necessarily — a botched read of a CAT scan) adored Carole King and “Tapestry” was her favorite record.

    When she died, in 1981, my pushy matriarchal cousin took over the entire funeral herself (let’s put it this way, I was a mommy’s girl and was 21 years old and was never asked ONCE for any input or even to sit in on meetings with the rabbi to “plan” the event). She had a relatively good idea to have the organist play selections from “Tapestry.” What she DIDN’T think of was to ask me (or my sister) which songs would be appropriate for a funeral. Instead, she bought the song book, handed it to the organist, and the event began.

    My sister (16 at the time) and I sat in the front and, I admit it, when it all began with a funereal dirgelike version of “I Feel The Earth Move” it was all we could do to not dissolve into giggles — really appropriate at your mom’s funeral right? (And trust me, my mom would have been peeing her pants laughing — and probably was up there.)

    We pulled ourselves together and sat through the organist playing — turning to next page — playing — turning to next page — as mourners filed in.

    Now, my sister and I were very familiar with the record so we knew the order of songs. And during the one page turn we looked at each other in horror and mouthed “Oh, no! Smackwater Jack!”

    You have not heard “Smackwater Jack” until you’ve heard it done by the organist at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home. And we. Lost. It. We were laughing so hard we were falling off the pew. Luckily, being in the front row with our heads buried in our hands, we could only hope people thought we were crying. Which is a way we were.

  8. halfhearteddude
    June 22nd, 2012 at 07:01 | #8

    Wow, that is a fantastic story, Lisa.

  9. RG
    June 22nd, 2012 at 20:00 | #9

    Yup dude, it’s from Scratch. That whole album is, well, far out… The Crusaders at their peak.

  10. Geoviki
    June 29th, 2012 at 04:44 | #10

    Wow, Lisa, that was worth sharing, thanks! Great story and great mom when you can testify that she would’ve shared in your laughter.

  11. Philo
    February 18th, 2021 at 09:29 | #11

    Highly recommend her “Legendary Demos” CD that came out in 2012 that includes 6 songs from Tapestry and some of her Brill Building work.

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